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You are not your college major

| Thursday, November 16, 2023

Do you ever think about how weird it is that the age of 18 — when we’re basically still teenagers without fully developed brains and not much life experience — is when we make some of our biggest life decisions?  

It’s at this age that many people choose where they want to go to college and what they want to study as their major. It’s these decisions that can determine their first jobs and their eventual career paths. So, the choices we make when we’re still teenagers — who might not even have a full understanding of who we are as people, much less what we want to do — are what begin to outline the maps to the rest of our lives.  

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, especially when I find myself beginning to feel bad about one of those big life decisions I made three or four years ago: my college major. It’s a bit scary when, as a senior and way past the point of changing my major, I begin to spiral into one of these periods of “regretting” my decision to major in political science years ago. I sometimes wonder if this is a common experience, and I’d imagine that it is because not all of us are the same people we were at the age of 18 or 19 or even a few months ago. That’s the whole point of being in your 20s — it’s a time in life that involves constantly trying to figure out who you are and what you want out of life — so it’s got to be normal for me, as a 21-year-old, to look back at decisions I made as an 18-year-old with a bit of “regret.”  

I put quotes around “regret” because, when I think about it, I don’t actually regret my major. It got me a job, and I enjoy my classes and being able to learn about systems of power, ideologies and human behavior from multiple perspectives. I’ve been able to leverage and combine the qualitative and analytical skills I developed in my major with the more quantitative and numbers-driven skills I learned in my data science and business economics minors. But, at the same time, I don’t plan on ever becoming a lawyer, I’m not a big “politics person” like most of my peers (I find more value and potential for good in policy, rather than politics — two things which, I believe, are massively different). I’m usually more disgusted than interested in politics and politicians as they put money and power above humanity, and I often find myself thinking that my personality just doesn’t really fit with what the stereotypical political science student is supposed to be.  

What I’ve noticed is that this sense of “regret” trickles in when I begin to tie too much of my sense of identity, and my academic worth, to what I’m studying in school. I think this is common among college students who, again, are young adults without fully developed senses of “self.” So, it’s easy to overly identify with the college you go to or the major you’re studying. Just because I’m majoring in political science doesn’t mean my identity has to revolve around that — and same goes for the computer science major, the neuroscience major, the finance major, etc. At the end of the day, your college major isn’t who you are and (unless you want to become a doctor or an engineer or another profession with very specific prerequisites) doesn’t determine your future. It’s simply what you’re studying in school and not much more than that. 

I think separating my sense of self from my major has actually helped me to appreciate it more and also to feel more of a sense of freedom to explore interests outside of my studies. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about using the relative freedom, extra time and brainspace that college affords me to explore any and all of my niche and “irrelevant” interests using resources like the internet and the library. I’ve begun checking out books from Hes (which I never took advantage of before for some reason) to read in my free time. I watch videos on YouTube and documentaries on Netflix that cater to my interests in an effort to remind myself that learning doesn’t have to be “productive” — it can just be for fun, too. 

People are multidimensional. I’m majoring in political science, but I’m also interested in learning about architecture and design, psychology and philosophy, music and different cultures, art history and nature. Don’t feel the need to limit yourself to your major (and, for that matter, your career) — it might take a whole lot of pressure and “regret” out of your life. 

Meg is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in data science and business economics. Besides writing, she enjoys spending time with the people she loves, riding on public transportation and listening to good music. You can contact Meg at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Megumi Tamura

Meg is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in data science and business economics. Besides writing, she enjoys spending time with the people she loves, riding on public transportation and listening to good music.

Contact Megumi